Oral - Community Asset Transfer Programme
In November 2008, during Plenary, I indicated that work was progressing on developing a community asset transfer programme with the Big Lottery Fund. In my written statement on 5 August, I informed Members that I had announced an official partnership between the Welsh Assembly Government and the Big Lottery Fund to take forward this programme. It is an exciting approach: a joint investment of funds to strengthen the enterprising communities of Wales. The total fund value of £13 million has now been agreed between the parties. This will include the capital and revenue element.
The aim of the community asset transfer programme will be to build enterprising communities to take on and develop community assets that can provide solutions to the challenges they face; to contribute to the regeneration and economic sustainability of communities; to promote and strengthen the independence of third sector organisations by enabling social enterprise; and to improve partnership working between the public sector, the third sector and others.
The evidence for a programme on community asset transfer is compelling. The Quirk review, undertaken at a UK level in 2007, made the point that there are no substantive barriers to the transfer of public assets to communities. I fully agree with that. The review went on to state that we require political will, managerial imagination, and a more business-focused approach from the public and community sectors to help these transfers to happen. Already across Wales, many transfers of assets have taken place—some very successfully: Galeri in Caenarfon, for instance. We know that there are risks with all transfers but we also know that they can be minimised and managed by the creative will of communities and their aspirations to move beyond a cycle of poverty to prosperity.
A lot of work has gone into the development of the community asset transfer programme. In 2008, the Welsh Assembly Government commissioned the Development Trust Association to put forward proposals on how we can promote asset transfer and community development in Wales. Its study highlighted the importance of the provision of finance for investment in community asset transfer and development. Further to that, the Big Lottery Fund undertook a 16-week consultation exercise, which included a specific community asset focus for Wales. The Big Lottery Fund’s consultation on community assets indicated an opportunity to develop that partnership with us and gave a strong steer from stakeholders on how the community asset transfer programme should be developed.
As some of you will be aware, a complementary Welsh Assembly Government fund to this is the community facilities and activities programme, which has recently been reviewed to strengthen its regeneration focus. I am keen to ensure that the community facilities and activities programme and the community asset transfer programme complement each other. Therefore, I have ensured that the community asset transfer fund will provide capital and revenue grants, which will be awarded from one source, and will fund applications involving the transfer of ownership from public sector bodies. Meanwhile, the community facilities and activities programme will fund the transfer of ownership, or lease, of an asset from private sector bodies, with capital-only grants awarded being up to £300,000 over three financial years. Therefore, I see the community asset transfer fund as complementing the outstanding work already taking place across Wales. I hope that Community First partnerships will encourage asset transfer and support community-owned facilities as part of our shared agenda to empower communities and see a closer integration of services, agencies and funders.
Through this programme, we hope to align the aspirations of communities with those who have the ability to turn them into a reality. The task, though, will be to engender meaningful partnerships. The public sector may have land or buildings, and the third sector will know the immediate needs and will have the commitment to resolve them. I hope that this programme will support the public and third sectors in achieving greater sustainability and community benefit. The community asset transfer programme will run for three years, commencing October 2009. My officials are currently working alongside the Big Lottery Fund on finalising the guidance and application materials for applicants. I would urge any potential applicants to the community asset transfer programme to contact the Big Lottery Fund to talk through their ideas.